Death by worksheet. ~Debbie Grieve

Via Misa Derhy
on Oct 25, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

I write this as a frustrated parent watching her child shift between two entirely different worlds as if one bears no resemblance to the other. Those two worlds: home and school.


Image courtesy of:

I write this as a frustrated parent watching her child shift between two entirely different worlds as if one bears no resemblance to the other. Those two worlds: home and school.


At home my son will build with Legos, play make-believe games with his sister, draw, ride his bike or, play his PS3. He’ll also play games on the internet and interact intuitively with a plethora of different apps on mobile devices. When he’s unable to read a certain word or when he wants new words to use in his writing, he heads to the iPad dictionary and thesaurus apps without a second thought.


When he enters the school gates each day however, access to such familiar, interactive tools and activities is limited. In most cases they are replaced with worksheets and huge, heavy text books. Information is static and they are passive recipients.


This is not a personal gripe about the school he presently attends; great inroads are being made into using more technology in the classroom to enhance the great teaching and learning they already do. I am thankful for all their hard work but as an advocate for a 21st Century Education for today’s children, and of course an advocate for my own children and how they learn best, I cannot help but notice the discrepancy between his two worlds and wish that it wasn’t so. Understanding why it is so and arguments for change are a much bigger conversation for another time.


Every night when I unpack his backpack, I unload a heap of worksheets and tests he has fastidiously completed throughout the day and a list of homework tasks, most of which begin with ‘complete worksheet number XX’ or ‘read pages x -x and complete questions’. Now, I am not suggesting that there is no place for worksheets in his, or any other child’s education, but there has to be more correlation between their two lives. There are most certainly lots of fun activities going on his classroom; he loves the experiments and the projects and he has some great teachers, but he needs more.


Recently he arrived home with a huge science text book. He had to read and absorb several pages of text and then regurgitate what he had learned by answering a set number of questions. I have to admit, we both struggled with the task! Being a visual learner, the pictures helped but compared to his everyday visually stimulating and interactive world outside of school, it wasn’t enough. His eyes glazed over and I could tell that not much was being absorbed; we had to figure out a way, a better way, for him to learn the content. What to do?


He then suggested searching for You Tube videos and using to look up the topic. He was gone, rapidly online and researching his topic. Chuckling as he watched videos that explained the same content but with pictures and animation that brought it to life and made his learning relevant. We went back to the book, re-read part of the topic chapter and set about talking about the content and making connections between the two.


I realise that there is no doubt that this topic is personally relevant for me, having a child who finds reading large amounts of text a challenge, but I know he is not the only one. I also know that there are many too that would not have struggled with the text and that’s ok too. We could also review and discuss equity in relation to how much technology different children have exposure to at home; I understand that impacts things. However, I strongly believe that regardless of those facts, life outside of school for the majority of children today is full of visual and interactive stimulants everyday whether it’s TV, video games, dad’s smartphone or their own home computer, they want to be connected and their school life needs to reflect this fact. It’s their future.


Debbie Grieve

Debbie Grieve like most of us in today’s modern 21st Century world, wears many hats. After 11 successful and fulfilling years in Investment Banking Operations Management, she decided to retrain as a Post 16 Literacy and IT teacher 2 years after the birth of her first child.

Since then she has worked for the Essex County Council as both an ITQ/NVQ assessor and an ICT and Literacy tutor, and for Braintree College of Further Education as an Associate Lecturer. Debbie has worked with both adults returning to learning, young, dis-engaged learners enrolled on the NEET and E2E programs as well as youth offenders.

In March 2008 Debbie and her family relocated to Mumbai, India. Whilst in India, she worked with the Oasis NGO, teaching English as a foreign language and has been involved with many initiatives at the American School of Bombay. She volunteered as an Executive member of the PTA and as part of the Technology Team at ASB as a Parent Technology Representative. She was responsible for the program of IT learning offered to the school’s parent community, a member of the Tech Leadership Team and various other initiatives. In 2012 Debbie joined ASB as the Co-Director of the ASB Online Academy, a pioneering initiative of the school offering effective, accessible, anytime, anywhere online learning.

Visit Debbie at her blog Hooked on Learning.



About Misa Derhy

Misa Derhy is yoga teacher living in Dublin where she moved recently after 4 years living in Mumbai, India. She studied 4 years with Prasad Rangnekar, teacher of teachers, and continue to learn from his teaching. She studied also in Yoga Institute in Mumbai, Yin yoga with Paul Grilley and this year she started the studies of Classical Yoga Studies with George Feuerstein. She shares her passion for yoga on elephant journal, (recently we have elephant journal en Francais!), Free Hug Yoga Times, the website for writers in many different languages. She organizes yoga retreats and traveling to India with Indian Dreams travel agency.. Misa also teaches Yoga Online with American School of Bombay Academy.


5 Responses to “Death by worksheet. ~Debbie Grieve”

  1. claudia says:

    nice! i don't know if anyone has looked into unschooling or alternative "education" like that. i'm in university now and i still hate school, i always wished that could've happened to me. i did spend a year in montessori and loved it. life is education. don't let your schooling interfere with it =)

  2. emer says:

    I enjoyed your article. It made me pause and reflect and think that surely the movement between the two types of learning(indeed many types of learning) is what is so interesting and beneficial. Children need to be exposed to all methods, just visual, just modern or any one approach will never be interesting enough. Most children have little sense of polarity unless adults point it out to them. Let them flow between Victorian and 21st Century – we all do. Agreed they will have more disparity with which to contend but surely you want the type of flexible person that can move school, move environment and absorb what they need to know from any stimulus.

  3. Interesting take on the use of technology. As a former high school teacher and current elementary school tutor I believe that technology is actually hindering the learning of children in today's society. While there is some room for it at a basic level it has become a crutch for learning how to think. Learning how to use the technology for both the teacher and the student takes up an inordinate amount of time that could better be spent in learning how to learning; the ultimate tool.

    I don't think that worksheets are the answer either as they are a detached way of learning and lack any integration into real life. Instead I hold that most children and teens need to learn through experience and in ways that are relevant to their lives so that they can comprehend the information.

  4. Ceci says:

    My mom is a teacher and is trying all the time to use interactive online tools, but it seems often the administration does not always support it. It is not that they are against it, but are more abrasive to this kind of change than the teachers. So maybe look to the administration and not the teachers for these changes. If there is one or two computer labs for an entire high school/middle school etc., to share. How likely is it that all teachers will be able to use this interactivity in their curriculum.

  5. Bobbie Alcott says:

    I commonly see unexceptional views on the subject but yours it’s written in a pretty unusual fashion.